Taking care of your mental health is just as important as your looking after your physical health and wellbeing.
The World Health Organization’s constitution defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’
If you work full-time, about half your waking hours are at work. If you own or run a business, it’s probably even more.
From a personal perspective, taking good care of your health and wellbeing can help you face life’s inevitable stressors and keep you feeling positive and well while you are at work or managing your business. And in the process you’ll have more energy for building a life of purpose at work, home and play.
It also makes good sense to include health and wellbeing as a key part of running any successful business. Research has shown that healthy workers are almost 3 times more productive than unhealthy workers and record fewer injuries, sick days and work-related injury claims.
Under our work health and safety laws, everyone is responsible for health and safety in the workforce. This legislation also defines health to include both physical and psychological health, and outlines the duty of care responsibilities for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs).
The legislated position in Australian workplaces has traditionally emphasised the physical health and safety of workers rather than their overall health and wellbeing. However, the benefits of workplace health and wellbeing programs are now being recognised and gaining in momentum.
Any consideration of health and wellbeing should include the full range of potential risk factors, including:
- alcohol and drugs
- bullying and inappropriate behaviours
- anxiety and depression
- heat and UV exposure
- mental health and wellbeing
- physical activity
- stress and resilience
- work life balance
- work-related violence.
While our laws outline PCBU responsibilities for your health and safety at work, as a worker you must also take reasonable care of your own safety, health and wellbeing as well as that of others around you.
Effective health and wellbeing promotion can be a shared responsibility between workers and PCBUs. The most effective programs are those where workers feel engaged in the process of identifying problems and developing and reviewing solutions.
If you are given or see an opportunity to help make improvements, provide input and contribute to paving the way to better health and wellbeing at your workplace.
Work health and safety cultures are led from the top where a PCBU’s actions and attitudes send a message to the people who work for you that you are serious about their safety, health and wellbeing.
Effective work health promotion is also a shared responsibility between PCBUs and workers. The most effective programs follow the same steps as successful safety programs, so any efforts are best done as part of an integrated approach
Improving workers’ health and wellbeing can positively impact on your business profitability, productivity and safety. Research tells us that every $1 spent creating a mentally healthy workplace can, on average, result in a positive return on investment of $2.30.
If you have a team of workers, you need to consider the costs of sick leave and replacing workers who are forced to leave due to health issues. The graphic below shows how implementing a successful workplace health program you can achieve significant cost savings, as well as:
- decrease staff absenteeism/sick leave by an average of 30%
- decrease staff turnover by an average of 10%.
Having a healthy workforce makes even more sense when you also consider that:
- poor worker health and absenteeism costs Australian businesses $7 billion annually, or an estimated $2700 per worker
- unhealthy workers take up to 9 times more sick leave than their healthy colleagues
- not functioning fully while at work due to poor health (called presenteeism) costs Australian business an estimated $26 billion per year in lost productivity (2005/06)
- obesity-related poor health costs South Australian businesses an estimated $273 million per year (2008).
There are many resources available to help you develop health and wellbeing programs in your workplace or industry sector.
- SA Health Healthy Workers - Healthy Futures for information, health promotion strategies and case studies
- SA Health: detailed work health audit tool
- Heart Foundation: information on workplace wellness
- WorkSafe Tasmania: practical tips on linking health, safety and wellbeing in the workplace
- Queensland Government: overview of an integrated approach to health, safety and wellbeing under work health and safety laws
- Heads-Up: 7 actions for an integrated approach to creating a mentally healthy workplace
- Healthier Workplace WA: top 10 quick wins to kick start your health and wellbeing program
- WorkSafe Tasmania: simple guide to workplace health and wellbeing
- Department of Health Healthy Workers Initiative: a range of health resources to assist workers and employers
- healthy living apps: apps most likely to help users change their behaviour and achieve a healthier lifestyle, as reviewed and rated by VicHealth
Agriculture sector and regional workplaces
- Health and wellbeing section of our Farmers’ Guidebook for information, resources and safety scans
- National Centre for Farmer Health: health, wellbeing and safety information, including a support page for farmers experiencing tough times
- Australian Men’s Shed Association: Spanner in the Works, a men’s health and wellbeing initiative
- Rural & Remote Mental Health: workshops and programs promoting mental health awareness, suicide prevention and early intervention for mining, agriculture and indigenous communities
- Fat Farmers Rural Health Initiative: health tips and resources that encourage farming families to get active
- Farmstrong: Live Well Farm Well tips for farmers on health, sleep and fitness
- Ifarmwell: online toolkit to help farmers cope effectively with life’s challenges and get the most out of every day
- Wellbeing and physical health section of our Automotive Workshops Guide for information, resources and safety scans
Bullying and inappropriate behaviours
Health care and social assistance
- Heads up: creating a mentally healthy workplace for health service professionals
- Nurse and Midwife Support: staying healthy at work
- Nurse and Midwife Support: mental health topics like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health self-care
- Nurse and Midwife Support: wellbeing topics like stress, bullying and harassment, workplace violence, compassion fatigue and burnout
- Royal College of Surgeons: addressing bullying and harassment
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners: addressing self-care and mental health
- AI Group: tools and resources to support work health and wellbeing in manufacturing, including a free online health check
- Department of Health:Transport and Storage Industry Healthy Workers initiative
- Transport Women Australia Limited:a national independent organisation focusing on supporting women dealing with industry issues
- Group Training Australia (SA): tools and resources to support work health and wellbeing for apprentices and their host employers
- Youth Health Line: call 1300 13 17 19
- Child and Youth Health: practical information for parents, carers and young people
Mental health and wellbeing
There are many resources and support services available to help you build your personal mental health wellness or to develop mental health and wellbeing programs in your workplace. These pages also offer information on who can help in an emergency.